It has already been a week since my last update. The pace of the work here is very relaxed to say the least. It might be because of the climate here, especially this time of the year when its hot and a bit humid, with rain clouds around but struggling to rain.
There aren't many (interesting) things to
talk write about since my last update. I did manage to call home from my mobile phone finally, and it wasn't very expensive call either - costing about a dollar for a 5-minutes call. But I didn't know it was going to be that cheap when I called so I made sure I put the phone down just around the 5-minutes mark!
After making a daily routine to come to the internet cafe for a week or so - to download email and send replies, and check news, this routine has started to break up now. I have become busier lately but also less reliant on internet for my news. Whenever I am at home, I have my radio on the side, tuned on to the BBC World Service (I even managed to listen to a documentary about indoor air pollution in Nepal, and a piece on music and shamanism in Nepal!). As for email, I don't receive much anyway to have to check them daily.
In terms of work, slowly but surely, it is progressing in the right direction. I am making short trips to the villages/communities nearby at every opportunity to observe rural life and livelihoods, and to talk to people. Have picked up few words and phrases to greet the locals with and to respond back when they greet, but even after a couple of weeks, they don't come naturally and seeing my unease, the locals mostly greet me in English!
Now I also know most of my neighbours, and in some cases their stories too! There is an old man whose sons are building a house opposite where I am staying, money for the construction coming from one of the sons who is studying & working in London. So the construction seems to be everlasting as the work only happens when he manages to send money from London. According to the father, it has been nearly 10 years since he went to London to study and to work, and tells me that his son is now trying to obtain a permanent residency before he comes back to see the house that he helped build.
The old man's story itself is very interesting. His father was from Burkina Faso who came to Ghana before the first war to join the Ghanaian army under the British rule. He fought in the first war and retired after it. After seeing the lack of support for his father from the government after his retirement from the Army, this man decided not to join the Army even after a huge pressure from a colonel in the local garrison. Instead he went to a polytechnic and became a mechanic. He says he was very good at repairing the caterpillars, and still enjoys working on the machines - but says his sons have dragged him into the retirement because of his age.
The cleaning lady who comes to the office every day has her own story to tell. This woman who speaks French and English in addition to a number of local languages complains about the useless husbands (those who expect wives to run the household without giving them a penny to spend); about the high price of chemical fertilisers; and her struggle to provide for three children that her brother left with her to care for when he died. She now works as a cleaner on the weekdays and looks after her two-acre farmland over the weekend, where she says she has planted only groundnut this year because she didn't want to spend money on expensive fertilisers that she would have needed if she had planted maize.
I am slowly starting to try out local foods as well. I have had fufu (They mix and beat boiled yam and cassava together to create this dhido-like staple food) served with meat and fish stew for my last two lunches (see image)!! I must say I found it delicious. Reminded me of eating dhido with rayo saag or gundruk in Nepal. Of course I will be trying African dhido as well - made of corn flour as we do in Nepal, served with some kind of stew. May be for my next lunch or dinner!
Was at a local district assembly office yesterday to see how they function. It was like visiting any of the district development council offices in Nepal! I even found an employee who apparently came to office early in the morning, left his bag on his chair and then went somewhere on his personal business! Just like the government employees leaving their coats or caps or turned-on computers on their desk and get on with their private business in Nepal! It seems the way things work in developing countries is the same everywhere. Another interesting topic for scientific investigation, maybe!?!
One thing that does not cease to amaze me here is the way landlords are exploiting the distorted housing market due to the number of NGOs that operate in this area and are willing to pay higher than the market price for the buildings they rent. First of all most landlords are only willing to rent out on a two-year contract! and in addition the asking price are usually just too much. It seems like they are selling the house for two year and not renting it! One place where I went to look for a room, the landlord even said he finished the floor with quite expensive tiles so I should pay to cover his costs!?! He was asking for 1.5 million cedis/month for a room!!! And I have been told that if I find a room in a house with shared kitchen etc., the price is usually only about 100000 cedis or thereabouts! Anyway, although I have a place to stay at the moment, I am looking for options in case I need to move out from the current place. Its providing me a good experience in bargaining with the landlords here 🙂
I tried another local (Dagomba ((Dagombas are one of the major tribes in this part of Ghana))) food for lunch today, called Tubani - some kind of dumplings made out of Bambaran beans flour, served with powdered sesame seeds, chilli and some groundnut oil that had fried onions in it. It was quite like eating some Newari cuisine in Nepal...or may be I should stop comparing everything with something in Nepal!?! 🙂 In any case, I liked what I ate, so will definitely be eating it again!
More on the next mail...